Move to consolidate online presence; will make open offer for 26% in search platform
The country’s largest retail player, Reliance Retail, is moving to strengthen its online presence by acquiring a controlling stake in local business search company Just Dial. Reliance Retail will initially acquire 25.33 per cent stake through preferential shares. It will buy another 15.62 per cent from Just Dial founder VSS Mani. This will give the Mukesh Ambani company 40.95 per cent stake for ₹3,497 crore. Reliance Retail will then make an open offer to Just Dial’s public shareholders to acquire up to 2.17 crore equity shares representing 26 per cent, in accordance with SEBI Takeover Regulations.
Large database, users
Reliance Retail will leverage Just Dial’s database of 30.4 million listings and its consumer traffic of 129.1 million quarterly unique users, said a press statement.
Isha Ambani, Director, Reliance Retail Ventures Ltd, said: “The investment underlines our commitment to new commerce by further boosting the digital ecosystem for millions of our partner merchants, micro, small and medium enterprises.”
Reliance Retail has been on a buying spree to strengthen its online presence. It recently acquired online pharmacy Netmeds and furniture retailer Urban Ladder. Reliance has also agreed to acquire Future Group’s retail business but that has got delayed due to a spat with Amazon. Just Dial’s Mani, who shall continue as Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer, said: “Nearly 25 years ago, we had a vision to build a connected single platform dedicated to providing fast, free, reliable and comprehensive information to our users and connect buyers to sellers. Our vision has evolved to not only provide search and discovery but drive commerce across merchants through our B2B platform and enable further consumer to merchant commerce given our platform engagement. Our strategic partnership with Reliance enables us to realise this vision and transform the business going forward.”
Just Dial was founded in 1996 but was finding it tough to scale up to its rivals. Mani has been talking to many players, including the Tata group, for a stake sale.
“There’s a huge consolidation going on in the market and be it companies like Reliance and Tata or smaller players, everybody is looking to get as big a share of the digital economy as possible,” said Harminder Sahni, Founder and MD, Wazir Advisors.